US energy lab missing cocaine, amphetamine samples

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory failed to properly track cocaine, amphetamines, opium and black tar heroin that it uses for biomedical research and other purposes, leaving personnel unable to determine if the drugs had been misused or misappropriated, according to a federal report released Thursday.

Some drugs were missing, while opium and black tar heroin were found in greater amounts than lab records showed were

purchased legally, the Energy Department’s inspector general said in the report.

“I don’t think that the inspector general’s office said there was anything nefarious going on here,” lab spokesman Jim Bono said. “What they pointed out was less than stellar record-keeping. And we agree.”

Employees at Livermore, one of the federal government’s top science labs, handle as many as 42 different kinds of controlled substances. The drugs are sent to the lab mainly for forensic evidence testing.

The lab is also officially registered to use drugs for biomedical research and in its health clinic. Workers are required under federal law to track the use closely, with penalties that can include fines up to $10,000 per violation.

The report, however, said employees failed to adequately monitor at least six of the 42 varieties of drugs on site. It noted

quantities of an amphetamine known as MDA had disappeared between 2004 and 2009, and that five times more opium and 20 times more black tar heroin was found at the lab than records accounted for.

“Livermore was in possession of additional quantities of high-risk, controlled substances without any documentation showing that they existed,” the report said.

Sloppy record-keeping meant that “responsible personnel were not in a position to determine if controlled substances were purchased and then misused or misappropriated,” it added.

The inspector general’s report said records showed the lab had 12 milligrams of heroin on hand. But the actual weight of the sample was 244 milligrams.

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